April 02, 2016

The icing on the cake

First, I just want to share some good news! Remember my post about Atticus? Well, he's getting a bike! Unfortunately, he didn't win the bike in the voting; but thanks to the donations and the sharing of his story, they were able to raise enough money for Atticus to buy his special needs bike. They have to custom order it just for him, so his mom said that when she has pictures, she'll share them. I'm so excited for him!

It's hard to believe this is the last week before my goal race. My goal 10K is a week from tomorrow! After my awesome five-miler on Wednesday, I'm feeling pretty confident. I keep reminding myself that anything could happen, though, so I don't want to get overly confident. When I first started training, I felt like I had so much time to prepare. And now it's nearly here!

I was listening to Matt Fitzgerald on a podcast during my run this morning, and he was talking about "choking" during a race (figuratively, not literally). That is my biggest problem with racing! I tend to do really well during training, but then I choke at the race itself. Fitzgerald said that women especially will put so much pressure on themselves to hit a certain goal, and that pressure doesn't usually serve well for racing. I've been talking up this race for MONTHS, and I definitely feel a ton of pressure to hit my goal at the race (not from others, but from myself). My best races have all been where I didn't have a goal time, or where I just kind of let the race happen.

The first race where I set a very specific goal was the Big House Big Heart 10K in 2011. I was aiming for a PR of 55:04 or better (an 8:50 pace), and I trained hard all summer long. I followed Hal Higdon's training plan right to the letter, and I was determined to hit that PR! I was super nervous at the start, because I was feeling so much pressure to hit my goal. I just couldn't handle that last mile, and missed the PR by nine seconds.

Another race I wanted to PR was the Corktown 5K in 2012. I was actually hoping for a sub-26 time, something I'd been wanting for a year and a half. I even did something completely unlike me, something totally drastic and ridiculous... I left my Garmin in the car. On purpose. (Insert shocked emoji here).

I thought that taking the Garmin off would relieve the pressure to hit my pace, but I was wrong. To this day, I don't know what my splits were, and that drives me crazy ;) I wish I had some insight as to my pace during the race, but I ended up finishing in 26:57, nearly a full minute shy of my goal.

The most recent race with a time goal I was shooting for was at the Turkey Trot in 2014. I was hoping to hit a sub-55 time, and Nathan said he'd pace me. I ran my hardest, and if it weren't for Nathan, I'm sure I would have finished much slower than I did. He tried to push me at the end, because I was cutting it SO close, but at that point, I was so exhausted I just didn't care. I finished in 55:07.

Anyway, training for a particular race or aiming for a particular goal is disappointing when I don't reach it; but I really need to learn not to put so much pressure on myself. Of course I'm not going to PR every race! I think as long as I give it my best effort, then I can just be happy with the outcome no matter what. There are a ton of different factors that go into a "good" race or a "bad" race, and some of them have nothing to do with me (weather, for example). All I can do is run my best.

As far as my best races? I didn't feel pressured for any of them! My current 10K PR (2013) was a total fluke. I knew I'd probably PR the race (with 55:04 or better), and I guessed I'd finish somewhere between 52 and 53 minutes; but because I wasn't aiming for that, it really made no difference to me. I had actually forgotten that I was signed up for the race until a week beforehand. The stars aligned that day, and I ended up having a REALLY awesome race--finishing in 49:23! That race still blows my mind when I look back on it.

The same thing happened with my half-marathon PR. I was hoping to finally make a sub-2:00 time OFFICIAL. I'd wanted it for so long, and I'd done it during training, so I knew it would happen (barring something crazy happening during the race). I didn't care at all what my finish time was, as long as it started with a 1. I ran the race with the plan of enjoying it (I wore my fun muscle tights) and I really did have fun (as much fun as one can have while running hard). I realized along the course that I was going to finish FAR under 2:00; and I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:52:07, nearly 8 minutes faster than I'd hoped!

During the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot this last November, I went into it with the mindset of setting a new baseline of my fitness. I hadn't actually raced hard in a year, so I had no idea what my current pace was. I just told myself I would run my best, and it was what it was--I had no finish time or pace in mind. I ended up finishing in 27:00 (adjusted for course length; my official time was 26:14, but the course was short). I was pleasantly surprised, actually--I expected more along the 29:00-ish range.

Nathan smoked me! Wearing a turkey costume.
It's kind of fun to look back at that race report, because it was the beginning of training for my goal 10K that at the time, felt like it would be a miracle to pull off. Here is a quote from that race report:
"It's nice to have a starting baseline of my current 5K pace. I have to take about 46 seconds off of my 5K pace and double the distance in order to PR my 10K... that's going to be extremely difficult! But honestly, I am really looking forward to the challenge. I'm going to put in all of my effort during training, and then even if I don't PR the 10K in April, I will know that at least I gave it my best shot."
I really have enjoyed this training period. I've put in more effort than I ever have before during training, and it has paid off (I say this even before my race). I learned that I like doing short and fast speed work (one- or two-minute intervals) more than tempo runs (kill me now!); but tempo runs make me more confident in my abilities. I learned that I really enjoy long runs when I run very slowly, keeping my heart rate low. I learned that training slower on most days has helped me become much faster, despite feeling counterintuitive.

Looking back on the last four months, I can honestly say that I wouldn't change anything. I used trial and error to find out the best training for me, and I put in my best effort. I've improved my pace dramatically, and my confidence going into the 10K is fairly high. I keep imagining how exciting it would (will?) feel to cross the finish line having pulled off this goal that seemed impossible four months ago.

During the podcast I was listening to this morning, the host said something like, "...the training is the important part to focus on; the race itself is just the icing on the cake". And right now, that's pretty much how I feel. I put in all my effort to training for this ("baking the cake"), and a PR will definitely be some nice icing on said cake; but even without that icing, the cake is still there, just waiting to be iced. The hard part is over! ;)


  1. You've got this! I've been a reader for a while and this Katie is a game changer! I just know it's going to go perfectly for you.

  2. Another great blog! You've got this! Can't wait for the race report!

  3. I have faith. But, being a perfectionist, probably like you :) I tend to be so hard on myself and when things don't work out, I get really really upset, mad and everything just gets worse. My training has become what I love (dresssage mostly now, not so much running anymore) and really focus on my love of that. However, it is such a great feeling when you actually make that time goal or get that score from a judge that you were working so hard toward. You can do it, you already have!!

  4. Just remember that cake is still delicious without perfect icing :)

  5. Good luck! I hope you do it! I absolutely know what you mean about putting pressure on yourself for races...like you, some of my best races have been when I either didn't have a goal or the race was a spur of the moment thing and I ended up doing well.

    I DO think you've put in all the right kinds of training to set yourself up for success. I can't believe how you hit all your tempo runs - I just hate hate hate them and have a hard time doing them.

  6. If you PR this, I really expect you to get one big ass piece of cake as a reward!!!

  7. Re: Chocking. I can completely relate. Any added pressure or stress makes me not be able to run. I've noticed it so many times while using the neighborhood track. I'm having a great run and then suddenly someone else shows up to use the track as well, and next thing I know I can't keep up my pace, I can't catch my breath. It's so weird, but just the presence of other people makes me choke. I know they aren't watching me or paying any attention to me, but I feel like everything I do is now on display and what worked before, now is too hard, like I'm putting literal energy into dealing with another person and it's sapping the energy I need to run.

  8. You've got this! and I agree, I think it is so much easier when you don't have the pressure on yourself! I PR'd the 10K a couple weeks ago, the week after a half! I realized I was on PR pace at mile 2 and was like okay, I'm running hard and if I blow up I blow up. A min and a half PR ensued :)

  9. I had the same mindset when I did my first marathon. Just relax and enjoy it - the training is the hard part. The race is the celebration, congratulations on all the hard work!


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